Extending the trench outside Structure Twelve
Dig Diary – Day Six
Monday, July 5, 2021
One of the joys of post-lockdown digging is meeting old friends and colleagues, and today we welcomed back Structure Twelve supervisor Jim Rylatt.
Jim is only with us for three weeks for, as one of Britain’s busiest archaeologists, he has lots of forthcoming work at Avebury, Preselli in Wales and at other mouth-watering archaeological sites.
We’ll make the best use of Jim while we have him, and he wasted no time in discussing with site director Nick the opening up of a small extension to to the north-west edge of Structure Twelve.
In this area there is an entrance to the building which was blocked during Phase Two of the life of the structure and probably at the same time as the entrance in the south end was also blocked.
The area in the immediate exterior of the south end has already been excavated and it produced huge quantities of pottery. Jim and Nick both have a strong hunch that exactly the same will happen when this entrance is opened up.
If this turns out to be the case it will undoubtedly cement Structure Twelve’s reputation as the ceramic heart of the Ness of Brodgar.
Some of the biggest spreads of pottery we have ever seen have emerged from in and around the building and it was Structure Twelve which gave us the first coloured pottery, and also evidence of the cunning potter(s) who used tongue-and-groove techniques to affix their applied cordons.
The only slight snag is that every conceivable space in Ness HQ is already crammed with pottery, much of it from Structure Twelve. However, Lochview has secret Tardis-like properties and we will certainly find room for whatever emerges.
We are also fortunate to have a highly experienced excavator in Clare Ryan who is already working with Jim and who will take over when he leaves.
The small extension made in the south-west corner last week is showing us more of the outer face of the Structure Five wall in that area.
But the other area of walling which has emerged in the corner has yet to be clarified.
It could be part of an internal element of Structure Five, which was partly removed for the construction of Structure Thirty-Two, which sits on top of it.
At the moment it is difficult to see what was going on but what is not in doubt is that Structure Five, which is one of the earliest buildings at the Ness, was very large indeed.
Despite the cold and drizzle which has characterised much of the day the work of planning the last few areas of Structure Ten and of completing section drawings is going ahead.
Tomorrow, if the weather improves a little, the vital work of excavating and sampling the complex floors of the building will begin.
Something intriguing has emerged at the northern end of Structure Ten. We mentioned last week that a possible entrance into the passage which surrounds the structure, coming from an as yet unexamined area, had been found. Supervisors Sinead and Paul have examined closely the two othostats which appear to define the entrance and they have discovered that both are decorated.
They each have incised and pecked decoration which emerged when the strong sunlight of last week reached a suitable angle. The decoration is rather ephemeral and later this week our art expert Dr Antonia Thomas will visit the site and cast her expert eye over it.
She will photograph it extensively and this will probably necessitate the construction of some sort of shelter with appropriate directional lighting in order to secure the best images.
At the moment everyone on site is more than a little damp and we hope for better weather tomorrow.
Whatever happens, we’ll let you all know.